Week 15: Season 5 Episodes 9-12: Popularity of a Hero in Entertainment

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Through Seasons Two through Five, Peter Quinn has been one of the main fixtures on our screen when viewing Homeland.  This character is dark, brooding, and mysterious all while fighting the bad guys quite effectively.  Season Five shifted gears where all the excitement took place in Berlin, Germany.  Quinn fresh from a stint in Syria, found himself there amidst all of the adventures of Saul and Carrie and in similar fashion found himself neck deep into all their craziness. But still we tune in and see Quinn effortlessly pick off one enemy after another while looking like he can take center stage on a cover of a magazine.  Although I am not one to swoon over fictional television characters, I find myself looking forward to seeing Quinn on my screen and root for him in his adventures.  This has me wondering if the writers of Homeland purposely want their viewers to see Quinn through the lens of a hero.

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Heroes are beloved by many readers and/or viewers of entertainment.  The concept of a hero dates back a long time ago and originated in classical literature.  The definition of a hero has changed throughout time, and the Merriam Webster dictionary defines a hero as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities”.

While labeling someone as a hero is somewhat objective, I feel Quinn checks the boxes of these attributes of a hero.  He was first introduced to Homeland’s audience in Season Two as a black ops agent, under the supervision of Dar Adal.  Although we recently learned why Dar Adal recruited him (sex work for the CIA, could have done without that backstory), Quinn has turned out to be quite a good addition to the CIA organization.  We have since seen Quinn scale walls seemingly effortlessly (and only using his bare hands!), profess that he only kills “bad guys” and does so efficiently, survive a gunshot to his abdomen in the tailor shop in Gettysberg, single handily kill dozens of Haqqani’s men in the ambush on the CIA in Islamabad (while managing to not get killed himself), and most recently escaped death narrowly, not once but twice in Season Five.  (Although it remains to be seen if he truly survives the second attempt at his life).  While this seems pretty outlandish and frankly preposterous, it does make for exciting TV and glorifies Quinn as a hero.

While Quinn has his short comings, his actions demonstrate his tendency to fight for the common good.  Although he is not one to wear his feelings on his sleeve, we witnessed Quinn defend his heavyset friend when insensitive bullies were mocking her weight. Although bashing someone’s face on the table is over-the-top, his actions illustrate that he does have the capability to care for another human being.  The end of Season Five really brought forth the feelings he has for Carrie, via a romantic letter he wrote her.  I believe this was the first time in the series that romance was used in the narrative and it was a nice addition to the ongoing “will they or won’t they” storyline between them.

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Another notion of a hero is one who selfless and is willing to risk his or her life to save another.  Quinn has demonstrated this in his fierce protection of Carrie. In Season Five, a severely injured Quinn, determined to protect Carrie by severing his connection to her, slipped away from their safe house and attempted to take his own life.

Part of the troupe of a hero on TV resides with the hero facing insurmountable difficulties and setbacks.  The later half of Season Five, Quinn was not lacking in such instances.  Although Quinn tried to take his own life, he was stopped in the act by Hussein, a doctor who resides with the same group of Syrian jihadists that Quinn fell into, who were allegedly planning to carry out a terrorist attack in Syria. Quinn pretended to go along with the plan while informing Dar Adal about the group’s movements, but he eventually learned that their real target wasn’t Syria, but was right there in Berlin.  Unfortunately he gets knocked out by one of the jihadists when he went to investigate what is being loaded onto their truck during a stop for supplies.

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Quinn’s luck seemed to have ran out at this point as when he woke up, he found himself tied up and near containers of chemical weapons. It was revealed the containers held sarin, a deadly gas used as a chemical weapon. The jihadists decided to test the effectiveness of the sarin gas, by exposing Quinn to it.  Seems at this point, Quinn was facing certain death, but a sympathetic member of the group injected the agent with an antidote beforehand. Although the effects of the gas were lessened, Quinn was still grievously sick — made even worse when Carrie ordered doctors to wake him up in order to extract information from him.

Usually the hero finds a way to not succumb to adversity so it remains to be seen if Quinn’s storyline will follow this format.  As it is, at the end of Season Five, Quinn was still in a coma with no signs of recovery.  The very end of the season featured Carrie in his hospital room, ready to do a mercy killing but a bright light pierced the room.  Is this symbolism that Quinn’s soul is ascending to heaven or is it a sign from God that Quinn will miraculously survive?  I look forward to watching Season Six to find out the answer.

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Over the last fifteen weeks, I eagerly viewed Homeland for my graduate school COMS 650 course at Northern Illinois University.  Although I wasn’t sure what to expect from a class where you watch a TV show and then blog about it, I learned a lot more than what I thought I would.  The articles assigned for the class to read, provided another layer of depth to this show.  Clearly, Homeland is smartly written show, containing some real representations of real life and a whole lot of embellishment.  As I mentioned above, I look forward to watching Season Six and any additional seasons during the course of Homeland’s lifetime.  I hope to interact with my followers from time to time and look forward to more musings on Homeland in the future.

 

 

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Week 11: Season 4 Episodes 5-8: Winning Game Plan?

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The middle four episodes of Season 4 seemed to almost entirely forget about Carrie’s reluctance to motherhood and the fallout from leaving Franny with Maggie, but instead redirected the action and excitement to Pakistan.  Carrie is still trying to rid the world of terrorists, and in this block of episodes we meet the next high profile terrorist, Haissam Haggani, a Taliban leader who Carrie and her crew targeted in the blotched wedding drone strike.  This series of episodes contained enough excitement and suspense that Homeland’s viewers come to expect, however it appears our protagonists are on a major losing streak.

At the start of Season 4, we meet Aayan who is Haggani’s nephew and survived the drone strike that killed the rest of his family at the blotched wedding.  Viewers got the impression that Aayan and Haggani were close – Aayan risked a lot to get life saving medication for Haggani and also relayed tales of Haggani’s endearing mannerisms, like how he drank his tea.  After a period of time, Aayan revealed that Haggani is alive. Carrie concocted a ruse to get Aayan to seek refuge with his uncle, Haqqani, by initially having a couple members of her team break into the safehouse and try to capture Aayan.  Of course Aayan is able to escape, but unbeknownst to him, Max hid a tracker in his passport. Aayan is located by a drone which relays a visual of his whereabouts to the operations room where Carrie, Quinn, and Redmond observe.  Score one for Carrie and her crew.

Aayan

However After calling Haqqani, Aayan goes to a secluded location where he is met by a convoy of vehicles containing heavily armed men.   Haqqani tells Aayan that his “friend” (Saul) has led them into a trap and that there is a drone waiting above to kill them. Haqqani thanks Aayan for the medicines and kisses him, then shoots him in the head, killing him instantly.  So much for family loyalty!  Furious over Haqqani murdering Aayan, Carrie ordered the drone shooter to take the shot to assassinate Haqqani despite a kidnapped Saul being right in the vicinity.  It took Quinn to talk down Carrie from ordering the hit on Haqqani, which surely would kill Saul.  This is a major loss for Carrie’s team as it was decided that when Haqqani was in sight, the drone shooter would take him out for good.  So not only is Haqqani still alive and a viable threat to the United States, they lost an important asset in the process.  Poor Aayan – he was such a sweet but naïve kid.  RIP Aayan!

Of course one of the biggest losses for Carrie and co. happened when Saul got himself kidnapped.  En route to the United States, Saul sees Farhad Ghazi at Benazir Bhutto International Airport. Following Ghazi into a bathroom, Saul is attacked by two other men and given an injection which renders him unconscious. Saul is taken out of the airport in a wheelchair.  To make matters worse, a guard at a checkpoint discovers Saul bound and gagged in the trunk of Haqqani’s car, but takes no action and just waves them through.saul

In the episode titled “Redux”, CIA director Andrew Lockhart arrives in Pakistan.  Lockhart, Ambassador Martha Boyd, Carrie, and other representatives from the U.S. Embassy meet with a delegation of Pakistani intelligence officials. These officials disclosed a prisoner release plan for Saul, but instead of one prisoner, they wanted to exchange Saul for several high profile terrorists. Lockhart accuses the ISI of being complicit with Haqqani, and declares that the U.S. will suspend their federal aid to Pakistan if Saul is not returned safely.  The Pakistani intelligence officials got offended at Lockhart’s harsh rhetoric and and left the meeting.  Another loss for the CIA.

In the episode “Halfway to a Donut”, Saul managed to get a hold of a nail that he used to free himself from his shackles with a nail.  After killing the guard and stealing his cellphone, he contacted Carrie.  An elated Carrie directed him to walk 20 miles or so to the town where an asset is located.  Finally a win (and a big one at that) for Saul and the CIA!

Unfortunately this was a short-lived win.  At the next meeting between the Americans and Pakistanis, Carrie notices how confident the Pakistani officials are.  Initially confused by their attitudes in the meeting, she quickly realizes the Pakistani military can detect the drone over where Saul is and give Haqqani those coordinates. As she rushes to the operations room, the Taliban surround the town. To her dismay, they open fire on a van carrying the team sent to rescue Saul.  Unfortunately the van is outnumbered and forced to turn back.  While Carrie was able to talk Saul out of committing suicide, she directs Saul out of a building and into a group of Taliban, where he is recaptured.  Lockhart, watching all of this unfold, declares that the United States is accepting Haqqani’s terms for the prisoner exchange instead of telling them to fuck off.  Another big, rather huge loss for our protagonists.

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Meanwhile Carrie had her own troubles to contend with.  Earlier in the season we see Tasneem Qureshi blackmail Dennis Boyd in order to get him to do some unethical things for the ISI.  She was able to get a key to Carrie’s apartment where Dennis was able to use it to enter and snap pictures of her medication, a picture of Franny, and other personal items.  At a pharmacy, Tasneem picks up some pills that have been filled with an unidentified powder. Dennis switched Carrie’s pills with the pills that Tasneem acquired. Carrie eventually takes the tainted pills and soon begins to suffer the effects.  When she goes to the hospital to question Aayan’s girlfriend Kiran, she becomes paranoid and starts hallucinating.  She attacks a security guard at the hospital, while hallucinating that it is Quinn, and thinks she is shooting at police officers.  The police apprehend her and drive her to a stately home.  She sees Brody greeting her and eventually lets down her guard to allow him to comfort her.  Of course Carrie was hallucinating this whole time as in reality it was ISI colonel Aasar Khan who was holding her.

Fortunately the following day, after the effects of the pills wore off, Carrie realized someone must have tampered with her medication.  Carrie confronts Colonel Khan, who denies any involvement.  He eventually discloses to Carrie that it was Dennis who poisoned her with the fake medicine.  A loss for Carrie, but she does have the upper hand now that she knows who tampered with her medication.

So the final score board for Season 4 so far for our protagonists are two short-lived wins although they are overshadowed by several major losses.  I hope Carrie and her crew can turn their luck around, including rescuing Saul from Haqqani’s clutches.  Speaking of Haqqani, let’s hope Carrie can be successful in her mission in ridding the world of this Taliban leader.

Week 10: Season 4 Episodes 1-4: Transformation of Carrie and Quinn

quinn carrieWhile watching the first four episodes of Season 4 of Homeland, I was struck by an emotion of profound sadness.  Not because the Pakistan Station Chief Sandy Bachman was beaten to death by an angry mob in the streets of Islamabad.  After all Sandy was just introduced to us earlier in episode 1, so it wasn’t like I had invested any interest in this character in order to feel some sense of loss from his demise.  Instead I found myself deeply affected by how apathetic Carrie is to her infant daughter, Frannie.

Carrie Mathison

The second episode in the season devoted a decent amount of screen time to Carrie’s interaction with Frannie.  It is through these scenes we learn what kind of mother she is.  It should come as no surprise to Homeland’s viewers that she’s not a good mother. Permanently recalled from her position as Afghanistan’s station chief as a result of the botched airstrike that killed 40 people at a wedding, Carrie goes to Maggie’s house since Maggie has been taking care of Frannie.  When Carrie arrives, she hears Frannie crying. She turns around to leave but Maggie comes out of the house with Frannie in her arms. Maggie encourages Carrie to bond with Frannie, but Carrie is clearly uncomfortable and interacts with the baby as little as possible. The next day, with Maggie at work and the nanny gone, Carrie is left alone with her daughter. While Carrie seems to display some maternal tendencies toward her daughter at times, she packs baby Franny in the car (illegally in the front seat of her car no less) and drives to Brody’s old house.  It is in front of Brody’s old home where she confesses to Frannie that with Brody dead, she can’t remember why she gave birth to her. Even more disturbing was when Carrie was giving Frannie a bath and almost drowned her.  Why Carrie does not put Frannie up for adoption is beyond me.

Prior to Carrie’s return home, it was revealed in episode 1 during a Skype chat with Maggie that Carrie did not call to check on her daughter in over a week.  After Carrie blackmailed Lockhart into giving her the station chief position at Pakistan (chiefly to keep herself away from Frannie), and telling Maggie that she must leave immediately, Maggie chillingly retorts, “There’s not even a diagnosis for what’s wrong with you”.  It is as if something changed Carrie, all for the worse.  Perhaps it was seeing Brody being publicly hanged?  What ever the reason is, I am really disliking Carrie Mathison.

I suppose I should be more sympathetic to someone who is fighting the “bad guys” in order to prevent terror attacks to the United States, but this icy cold, manipulative, and apathetic woman hardly fills the qualifications of a heroine.  According to Judith Warner of the New York Times“We have the advent of Corrupt Carrie — newly powerful, endlessly manipulative, vaguely sexual-harassing (“Well, you’re pretty enough, I’ll say that for you,” she tells a pretty-boy lieutenant before he calls her a monster and almost makes her cry)”.  Another sexually manipulative instance perpetuated by Carrie occurred at the end of episode 4, when she seduces the Aayan.  This is how Carrie operates – she uses sex as a way to get him to open up about his not-so-dead terrorist uncle Haissam Haqqani. You could argue that this callous and indifferent woman of Season 4 is, in fact, the woman that Carrie has always been — her boundaries were always fluid, she just lacked the power to manipulate up.

What is interesting is the writers of Homeland purposely created the characterization of Carrie to be a troubled CIA operative.  After all it makes for good story telling.  According to Kellie Herson, Carrie’s bipolar disorder or “madness” is the core of the stories Homeland tells as a driving action for the plot.  The narratives told in the previous three seasons clearly illustrated her madness and even used it as a baseline in a guise to obtain an important asset.  So far this series has shown how her professional and personal spheres often overlapped (fluid boundaries) which caused Carrie a lot of anguish and agitation.  Herson also attests to when Carrie’s colleagues in Homeland are unaware of her madness, it nonetheless contributes to her outsider status in that it informs her professional behavior. Though she is not the series’ only character who lives with mental distress, as several experience trauma, it is clear from the beginning of the series that the symptoms of her bipolar disorder not only place her outside the normative expectations of her workplace but also influence her observant and diligent approach to her job.

Peter Quinn

While Carrie has descended into an apathetic and manipulative persona, Quinn is decidedly the more human of the two.  This seems to be in contrast to the menacing and unfeeling Quinn introduced to viewers in Season 2.  This is really apparent in the first episode of Season 4 when Quinn and Carrie drive back to the embassy in silence after witnessing Sandy’s murder. Carrie is all business and ready to dive in to brief the ambassador however Quinn needs a minute to gather himself after the chaos. Carrie refuses to stop for anything and the episode ends with her nonchalantly wiping blood from her cheek and reapplying her lipstick.

Still upset over killing the young boy in Caracas and reeling from the events in Islamabad, Quinn is really ready to leave the CIA.  He is stressed, damaged, and resorts to drinking heavily to cope with his PTSD.  However per CIA protocol, they have to make sure he is okay before he leaves so that he won’t be a threat to himself or others. The exit interviewer presses Quinn on all of the terrible events he’s been a part in his tenure and repeatedly brings up Carrie. After touching a nerve about having any romantic feelings toward Carrie, Quinn snaps and abruptly leaves the room.

Quinn is also there to provide a voice of reason to squelch any missions that would place anyone on the team in danger.  When Carrie was ready to go after ISI agent Farhad Ghazi (whom they realized orchestrated the attack that killed Sandy), Quinn tried to stop her as it would place the rest of the team in danger.  It took a call from Fara informing Carrie that Haissam Haqqani is indeed alive and did not perish from the drone strike that killed his family during the wedding to stop her in her tracks.

While there seems to be this underlying romantic possibility between Quinn and Carrie from the start (although it seems more on his end than hers), Carrie does not deserve Quinn.  Sure he has a checkered past, has violent tendencies, is an absentee dad to his son, and appears to be heading down the road to alcoholism (if he’s not there already), but at least he’s looking for redemption.  I wonder what is in store for Quinn.  Will Homeland resort to using Quinn’s madness as a plot device?  Or will they, in an effort to appease the proportion of its audience who expects romance mixed in with the action, offer Quinn and Carrie as a new romantic pairing?  Guess we will have to wait and see.

Week 9: Season 3 Episodes 9-12: How Real is the CIA depicted in Homeland?

21-homeland-ep4-6.w529.h352The final four episodes of Season 3 of Homeland contained action, suspense, violence, and the elimination of one of the show’s protagonists.  In other words, all the stuff that makes Homeland such an engaging and entertaining show. The gripping depiction of the CIA in its fight against terrorism serves as the linchpin to all the other elements that make up the show. Many of the main characters have pivotal positions in this agency and at the end of Season 2, a bomb ripped apart its headquarters in what was deemed as the worst terrorist attack since September 11th and positioned itself as a key narrative detail.

Many analysis have been written featuring the characters and plot lines of Homeland so I wanted to find something unique to focus my analysis on this week. There have been many changes to the CIA in Homeland’s world in the aftermath of the bombing, so I felt the time was right to delve deeper into this mysterious and prestigious agency in the federal government.  A fraction of Season 3 was devoted to hiring a new director of the CIA and trying to restore its tattered reputation.  For a while, Saul took the reigns as the director since he occupied the highest ranking position of the staff who survived the bombing.  However it is in the middle of Season 3 that we learned Saul’s days are numbered at the CIA. Although he was able to buy himself some time in his directorship of the CIA in order to finalize a crucial mission, it was in the final episode of this season that Lockhart was ultimately confirmed as the new CIA director.

All three seasons show an almost glamorous look at the CIA: from the offices at Langley, to traveling to exotic locations, to its employees being one of the elite few having access to classified national and international information.  Although I know Hollywood tends to exaggerate plot lines and characterization for sake of creating pulse pounding entertainment for its audience, I was curious about what a career in the CIA is really like.  Are the days really fraught with excitement and danger?  How often do employees of the CIA get to hobnob with the President, Vice President, Congress, and other high ranking government officials?  Is Carrie, a mid level case worker (prior to her promotion at the end of Season 3), really allowed to flagrantly violate her orders in a mission and still be able to maintain her position within the agency? It turns out that however glamorous the CIA appears on screen, in reality a career at the CIA is not quite as fantastical.

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The CIA’s original headquarters building

According to Jon Swaine of The Telegraph, many details and story lines are unrealistic. Starting with the portrayal of the agency’s headquarters in northern Virginia, the work spaces are far uglier than the elegant steel-and-glass shown on the show.  Also the real job as an analyst is around 15-20 percent awe-inspiring and dramatic moments while other times analysts are writing reports. Since watching a scene depicting an analyst at a computer writing a report is about as exciting as watching paint dry, it’s understandable that the writers concoct all sorts of crazy and outlandish situations for our protagonists and pluck the all of the action in exotic locals.

Carrie’s character is a prime example of fallacious characterization.  One CIA counter terror homeland-season-5-episode-2-claire-danes.Rveteran stated that someone with such a “drug-addled and neurotic persona certainly would have raised numerous red flags in real life, and she likely would have had wound up in a job in the mail room to keep her out of trouble”.   According to another former CIA official, “bureaucratic concerns would ensure mid-ranking case officers such as Carrie did not glide in and out of the offices of agency bosses such as David Estes”.  In the past I have been critical of Carrie being so unwavering in her dedication to her job, despite any cost to those around her.  That sort of recklessness was prominently featured in this season: Carrie was willing to sabotage Saul’s plan when she was trying to stop Franklin from shooting the Langley bomber.  It took Quinn to shoot her in the shoulder to stop her in her tracks.  In what was probably a more flagrant example insubordination, Carrie warned Brody of the two men Saul and Der Adal dispatched to kill him in Tehran.  I find it hard to believe that just these two instances were not enough for the CIA to terminate Carrie’s employment.  Instead, Carrie was offered a cushy job in Istanbul.

The C.I.A. sisterhood is fed up with the flock of fictional C.I.A. women in movies and on TV who guzzle alcohol as they bed hop and drone drop, acting crazed and emotional, sleeping with terrorists and seducing assets.

Perhaps the biggest blunder in accuracy depicted in the show is centered on the central plot line.  The CIA would not even be allowed to investigate Brody as a turned Marine since it unfolds inside the United States.  They would not even attempt to do so, as they are concerned with terrorism overseas.  The FBI and Homeland Security handle domestic terror incidents.  Instead Homeland portrays the FBI almost as bumbling buffoons,  assisting the CIA when domestic terrorism events strike.

These inaccuracies aside, the show accurately portrayed Lockhart’s acquisition as the new CIA Director. The Director is a civilian or a general/flag officer of the armed forces nominated by the President.  It was during the hunting expedition that Saul learned of the President nominating Lockhart for the Director position.  Although some details were glossed over as in order to become Director.  For example, the candidate would also need the concurring or nonconcurring recommendation from the DNI, and must be confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate.

The end of Season 3 shows a touching scene – akin to a tribute to the now deceased Brody.  CIA Memorial WallAfter getting rebuffed from Lockhart for getting Brody a star to display on the CIA memorial wall, Carrie used a marker to draw in a star.   It will be interesting to see how the CIA will hold up without Saul, especially given his successful mission in evading war with Iran.  Will Carrie be bringing baby Brody with her to Istanbul?  Will she embrace motherhood when her daughter is born?  Homeland will undoubtedly explore these questions along with their unique mix of political intrigue, excitement, and action in Season 4.

Week 7: Season 3 Episodes 1-4: Confinement and Betrayal

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I will admit, these four episodes were not my favorite.  Although I was warned this season is not as exciting and fast paced as the previous two, I was determined to review them honestly and without any preconceived notions.  While I accomplished that objective, I did take issue with some of the story lines in first four episodes of the third season of Homeland.   Continue reading

Week 6: Season Two Episodes 9-12: Torture and Interrogation in the United States: Glamorized or Real?

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I was eager to view the last four episodes of Season Two of Homeland, even more so since I had prior knowledge of what will transpire, culminating into the best ending of a season in this series. (Granted I have only viewed the first two seasons so my comparison base is admittedly pretty narrow). Goodness the writers of Homeland certainly have put their creative talents to good use to create an electrifying ending: Brody killing Vice President Walden, CIA operatives finding and killing Abu Nazir (after Carrie insisted they search the tunnels again where she was certain Nazir was hiding), a massive explosion to the CIA facility in Langley, resulting in the murders of over 200 innocent people, Brody being wrongly accused for this horrific terrorist attack, a dissolution of a marriage, and promises of love in a tumultuous and ill-fated relationship. Such storylines would take most serialized television shows a couple of seasons to complete, Homeland accomplishes this in just four episodes.

The point of this post is not to discuss all that transpired in these four episodes. After all, my readers have viewed these episodes and certainly do not need me to restate what they know and likely incorporated portions of these episodes into their own writings. Rather I would like to devote this week’s post to torture and interrogation tactics used in the United States. While I shied away from this topic last week, several of my readers encouraged me to pursue this topic at a later date. Given this has been a prominent topic in the public eye with the current administration and Homeland’s portrayal of torture and interrogation tactics in the second season make this a worthy subject to write about this week.

The use of torture and interrogation tactics were pervasive in the second season of Homeland, that one has grown accustomed to their occurrences. Viewers watch these scenes for emotional narratives such as the torture Abu Nazir inflicted on Brody when he was a prisoner, Brody being forced to beat Tom Walker while both were in captivity, the questionable interrogation tactics employed by the CIA to the Saudi diplomat and in a particularly violent example, Quinn stabbing a knife into Brody’s hand in an attempt to extract information about his past with Abu Nazir. Certainly these scenes contributed to the action and excitement in the second season, however they were not a completely accurate portrayal of the methods the CIA practices during an interrogation (especially when Quinn stabbed Brody’s hand). Much of what the writers and producers embellished in these episodes were to contribute to the storytelling of Homeland’s spy genre. Image result for homeland interrogation tactics

According to Jason Mittell of “The Ends of Serial Criticism”, how Homeland uses these torture and interrogation tactics is a strategy that serial storytelling can emphasize or ignore particular meanings simply by the amount of attention afforded to them through serial reiterations and articulations. Season two occurred in 2012, eleven years after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and national security was still forefront in the minds of Americans. The idea of torture tactics employed by the CIA, FBI, and other government agencies who deal with terrorism, were prominent in mainstream media stories. This issue was then and still is currently a controversial topic as even though the horrific events that unfolded at the turn of the century occurred a decade and a half ago, the war on terror remains a prominent concern to Americans. Homeland’s use of flashbacks to illustrate Brody’s torture in Afghanistan is not merely for additional detail in a vast sea of character information, it helps to shape our view of torture tactics used by Al-Qaeda. This can also help to shape the view of either the series or the U.S. military policy.

Although Season Two aired almost five years ago, the current administration has reignited controversy on the United States’ stance on torture. According to an article in “The Atlantic”, torture was a key part of Trump’s national-security platform as a presidential candidate. He publicly defended torture on the trail, proclaiming that “torture works” and “only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.” Even if it didn’t work, Trump concluded, “they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.” One has to wonder if such inflammatory rhetoric were uttered when Season Two aired, what direction the show’s writers would take these torture and interrogation scenes. Would they retract, contradict, revise, or simply ignore these political statements and just let that part of Brody’s history fade into the background? While conducting research for this article, I did not run across any viewers voicing dissent about the current season and Trump’s political utterances on this topic so my assumption is that either Homeland shifted its focus overseas off American soil where the instances of torture would not be such a common refrain or viewers do not find Homeland’s depiction of torture particularly offensive.

The CIA has often used Hollywood to present a rosy portrait of its operations.  Homeland has become a platform for Alex Gansa (Homeland’s co-creator) to explore all the most compelling and controversial aspects of the war on terror from a reliably pro-CIA point of view.  According to Gansa, the show tries in a vigorous way to show both sides of the political spectrum and not be polemic.  However as the war on terror endlessly grinds on, it will be interesting to see if Hollywood takes a more critical look at national security.  Not just in Homeland, but in other popular television shows or movies that of the same genre.

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Week 5: Season Two Episodes 5-8: Dana Brody: Anguished Teen or Moral Compass?

untitledI admit the topic I chose to write for week five is not my first choice. I had these grandiose thoughts of comparing torture tactics used in the United States from those used in the Middle East. I got inspired to delve into this topic after viewing episodes 17-20 in Season 2 where Brody is being interrogated by the CIA and Aileen Morgan, a low-level al-Qaeda operative from Season One, is in solitary confinement. Although Brody was injured during the interrogation (when Quinn plunged a knife into his hand), and Aileen was enduring psychological torture, a prevailing thought I had was that conditions surely would be much worse if these two were imprisoned in Afghanistan or any of the other Middle Eastern country. Continue reading